HUDSON—Goals, reopening plans, the code of conduct, and cellphone policy dominated the Hudson City School District (HCSD) Board of Education meeting August 18.
“Despite our additional challenges, we still need to keep our eyes on our mission,” said district Superintendent Maria L Suttmeier. This includes preparing students for college, career and citizenship. As the Vision 2020 time frame ends, the district needs to set future goals, but given the circumstances, “it’s impossible to set specific targets,” she said.
Instead, the district will set “philosophical goals” and figure out how to meet them despite the challenges, Dr. Suttmeier said. Proposed directions include: achieve, become and commit.
Preparations continue for reopening school, with the first in-person classes planned for September 14. Desks will be placed six feet apart in all directions, said Dr. Suttmeier. Instead of children moving for different lessons to different classrooms, “teachers will have to rotate, kids will stay in one place,” Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement April Prestipino announced. The new classroom design will be “minimalist,” and “teachers have been coming in and removing their personal effects,” said Dr. Suttmeier.
By the time in-person classes resume, except for the day of kindergarten screening, “We will not have had children in this school for six months!” the superintendent observed.
During kindergarten screening, which took place earlier this month, “the children were happy. They wanted to be here,” Dr. Suttmeier said. She said she found the sight very moving.
Another time school buildings were used for in-person instruction recently was when 20 teachers came for three days for training, Ms. Prestipino reported.
Reopening meetings continue, Ms. Prestipino reported, and the meetings bring frequently asked questions to the attention of administrators. The Buildings and Grounds and IT Departments continue to work on redesigning and preparing the school, said Dr. Suttmeier and district Business Administrator Jesse Boehme.
Drivers will drop off breakfasts and lunches for students on remote learning, but the drop-off locations are still to come, said Mr. Boehme.
“We can’t guarantee 100% no infection, but every day we’re getting more and more ready,” said Dr. Suttmeier.
The Code of Conduct needs an approved update by the start of school. Sean Briscoe, dean of students, reported on the update in progress. The biggest change, he said, will be to make discipline more “restorative.” Examples he gave include: instead of sending an offender to the administrative office to face discipline alone, calling a conference between the offender, the victim and sometimes the students’ families; when removing students from a classroom, making sure to tell the students why; showing an offender how not to repeat the offense “the next time”; and “progressive discipline,” with a milder punishment for the first offense.
In addition, Mr. Briscoe said, his main recommendation is to create a new cell phone policy. In his experience, “a large part of the day” is spent dealing with “inappropriate use of cellphones.” Meeting attendees characterized cell phone practices as “ever evolving” along with the technology and how kids use it.
One board member said that different buildings and teachers treat cellphones differently. Another pointed out the value of having all references to cellphone use in the same section of the document.
The code of conduct applies to not only on HCSD property but also to where virtual learning is taking place or being conducted.” A few days after the meeting Dr. Suttmeier emailed, “The code of conduct is for students participating in school programs whether they are on site or remote,” and added that violations of the code may be violations in either setting.
At the August 18 meeting, a board member suggested “scrubbing” the code’s language to eliminate subjective words. An example given is that the current generation might not know what the word “polite” means,” and polite might be replaced with “civil.”
The discussion also addressed how to define attendance in online classes.
‘We can’t guarantee 100% no infection, but every day we’re getting more and more ready.’
Dr. Maria L. Suttmeier
Supt., Hudson School District
Also at the meeting, Ms. Prestipino announced she has completed an important step in defending her dissertation for a doctorate in educational leadership from Sage College.
The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education will take place Tuesday, September 1, at 6:30 p.m. livestreamed.